Several months ago I decided it was finally time to buy a good digital camera. I have been wanting a good one for years but was never really happy with the ones anywhere near my price range. Previously the best I had was a 1.2 megapixel “keychain” camera. Anything would be a huge improvement, but I wanted a huge zoom and lots of megapixels. After lots of shopping and reading reviews, I finally chose the Canon Powershot S2 IS. I am really glad I did.
There wasn’t (and still isn’t) a lot of choice in the super zoom category and I knew I didn’t want to go all the way up to a D-SLR (too big and expensive plus no live LCD preview). The main part of my shopping involved testing out display models to see which ones I could actually get good pictures out of. Since no store has all brands and models, this took several days and a lot of driving. Best Buy turned out to have the best selection to look at. Circuit City would be second best. Both had cameras the other didn’t. Get a feel for them this way was also important, some that looked good online were just awkward to hold.
I had borrowed a friend’s Kodak a few times and much of the time I had blurry images. I just wasn’t keeping the camera still enough when I clicked the shutter. Being used to film cameras and higher ISOs, that was never a problem before. The last part of the name of my S2 is IS, which stands for Image Stabilization and it works really well. Except in low light, I almost never have that problem. That was the biggest selling point for me, I wanted a camera that I could actually use.
Thousands of shots later I still love this camera. There are some limitations like a max 400 ISO (which gets pretty grainy/noisy), its size, and it uses AA batteries. The AA battery limitation turns out out be a big plus for many users, me included now. You can buy your own rechargeable batteries (I bought two sets) and if you run out you can always buy some AAs almost anywhere to keep you going till you can recharge. That convenience is pretty good since there is little warning before the batteries run out. You get only a few more shots once the battery indicator comes on. But two sets of good rechargeable batteries and a charger adds a bit to the price which I didn’t really take into account originally.
I wish it was a little smaller. It has a nice size for fitting in you hand when you are shooting and it isn’t really heavy, but it stands no chance of fitting in your pocket. The lens of course takes up a good bit, you just can’t squeeze a 12x optical zoom into nothing. Having to choose between super zoom and pocket size I choose zoom and still would today. I am not sure how much I would like a tiny thin camera anyway. Hitting the buttons and just holding it would be awkward I think. But being able to put it in my pocket might make up for that.
Most reviews will complain that the lens cap comes off too easy. I agree. But it seems to be on purpose. When you turn it on with the cap on, the strap would put pressure on the lens motor which can’t be good. Of course a simple solution to that would be make the strap a tiny bit longer. It doesn’t come off just from gravity or shaking, it actually has to brush against something. I have gotten used to it and it stays on most of the time.
The other common review complaint is the plastic threads for a tripod. It holds just fine, but I guess the fear is they could be stripped easily if you use a tripod often. Mine has only been on one a few times so for me it is not a problem I worry about.
The price was a bit more than I wanted to pay, but it was worth it and it has come down since I bought it. Canon recently announced the S3 IS which I am already a big fan of. There aren’t a lot of changes, but more megapixels and double the ISO are big selling points for me. I am a little worried about the 100 gram weight increase, currently I don’t think it is heavy, but it would be nice if the new one weighed less, not more.
And to prove banner ads actually do make a difference sometimes, I clicked on a Sony camera ad and found this really nice camera. The Sony Cybershot DSC-R1 makes the S3 look pathetic, but it also costs a whole lot more. It is a bit less than a D-SLR and you don’t need to add more for a good lens since it is built in. Interchangeable lenses are of course a must for some people, but even on my Dad’s old film SLR I usually used only one lens (with amazing zoom). It was big and heavy, but I love zoom. The one downside of the Sony camera is the zoom is only 5x optical zoom compared to the 12x of the Canon S2 and S3.
I also looked at some of the competition for the Sony DSC-R1. Canon has a camera up in that price range too with a body similar to my current S2. The zoom is better than the Sony, but only 7x so still not as good as the S2/S3. I just wonder if the higher megapixels make up for that in ability to crop photos later. I like some of its features, but it is more of a pro camera than I want.
While I am looking forward to the S3, if you want to save some money on a super zoom camera, the S2 is a still a good camera and the S3 so far doesn’t seem to be a great deal better. Once the S3 is out the S2’s price should drop even more though not necessarily in stores. When I was shopping for the S2 the S1 was still pretty high priced. Try online but be careful where you buy from.
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